In May, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) told Politico that he wasn’t in any rush to advance the Biden White House’s priorities and pass a Democratic budget reconciliation bill, saying, “there’s no magic date and there’s no magic time, there’s no magic number.” As the bill has been developed, Manchin, along with conservative Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, has worked to undermine it, pushing its 10-year spending total down to around $1.75 trillion and stripping out major programs in areas like clean energy and paid family leave.
In October, Manchin shot down a proposal from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to increase taxes on individuals with more than $1 billion in assets or who earn more than $100 million in three consecutive years, telling reporters that he didn’t like the idea of targeting people who create a lot of jobs and make a lot of philanthropic contributions.
Also last month, President Biden told a town hall audience, on Sinema’s inscrutable position on tax rates in the budget: “Where she’s not supportive is, she says she will not raise a single penny in taxes on the corporate side and/or on wealthy people, period.” The White House later clarified that other types of revenue raisers, including a corporate minimum tax, were on the table in negotiations with Sinema.
While Manchin and Sinema worked to delay and reduce the Democrats’ budget bill, they were raising campaign money from wealthy Republican donors, according to a Sludge review of campaign finance data from Code for Democracy. For many of these donors, their contributions to Manchin or Sinema this year have been only their first or second donations to any Democrats in recent election cycles.
It’s uncertain whether Manchin or Sinema will vote for the package when it comes before the Senate. If either of them sides with the Republicans against the bill, it will likely be defeated, dealing Biden and congressional Democrats a high-profile legislative failure that could boost Republicans in the midterms and in 2024.
Republican megadonor Timothy Mellon and his spouse Patricia made their first recent donations to a Democrat by contributing $4,900 to Manchin on May 13. The transportation magnate donated over $66.2 million to conservative groups in the 2020 election cycle according to a tally from OpenSecrets, making him the fourth-largest donor on the right. Mellon’s donations last year included $20 million apiece to pro-Trump super PAC America First Action, the Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, and the Kevin McCarthy-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund. Mellon gave just $2,800 to a Democrat at the federal level last cycle: the presidential campaign of former representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. In September, Timothy Mellon gave $2,900 to the campaign of Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance, among other GOP office seekers.
Private equity billionaire John W. Childs made a rare donation to a Democrat on Sept. 19, around the time Sinema was holding fundraisers with business lobbying groups that opposed the reconciliation bill, when he donated $1,000 to her campaign committee. Last cycle, the GOP megadonor gave over $3.1 million to conservative outside spending groups, including the pro-Trump America First Action, and he contributed over $2.3 million to federal candidates, with only $2,626 going to Democrats.
So far this year, in his wide-ranging GOP support, Childs has contributed $266,300 to the Scalise Leadership Fund, led by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise. The Boston-based Childs donated $80,400 to the conservative House Freedom Fund in the first quarter of this year and $11,600 to Lauren Boebert’s campaign on Feb. 23, among donations to other House Republicans like Andy Biggs and Jim Jordan who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results. Childs donated $100,000 to the conservative Club for Growth’s super PAC in April, $500,000 to Republican joint fundraising committee Take Back the House 2022 in July, and $125,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in September.
Take Back the House, the committee affiliated with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and dozens more Republican groups, has been a popular recipient of donations from the Republican donors who have contributed to Manchin or Sinema this year. Dozens of Manchin and Sinema’s donors this year have contributed a combined $1.6 million to Take Back the House 2022, according to Sludge’s review of data from Code for Democracy. In January, McCarthy joined about 57% of his caucus in objecting to the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Billionaire Jeffery Hildebrand, founder of the Houston-based oil exploration company Hilcorp Energy, donated $250,000 to Take Back the House in May, then gave $10,800 to Manchin’s campaign committee and leadership PAC in August. In Hildebrand’s nearly 200 donations to Republican groups and candidates since 2017, Manchin appears to be the only Democratic beneficiary.
Billionaire media company executive Stan Hubbard donated $2,900 to Sinema in September, his first donation to a Democrat since 2019. In the 2020 cycle, Hubbard donated to Mo Brooks, Kelly Loeffler, and many more Republican congressional candidates, in addition to donations to the pro-Trump Make America Great Again Committee and Senate Leadership Fund.
W. Randall Fowler, a co-CEO of pipeline company Enterprise Products, donated $50,000 to Take Back the House in March, then gave $10,000 to Manchin’s committees in August. All of Fowler’s other political donations have been to GOP groups like the National Republican Congressional Committee, Republican candidates like Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, and a joint fundraising committee of Texas Sen. John Cornyn.
The PAC and employees of Enterprise Products donated more than $113,000 to Manchin in the third quarter alone, about one-fourth of his fossil fuel industry contributions in that period, as Manchin was stripping out climate provisions like a methane fee on oil and gas wells. The company has employed Manchin’s son-in-law since last year.
Jimmy Haslam, the billionaire chairman of the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain, has been a frequent donor to Republican party groups over the past three cycles. Haslam gave a total of $100,000 to the NRSC in March and April before donating a combined $8,700 to Manchin and Sinema in several contributions starting in June. His spouse Susan Haslam, with him a co-owner of the Cleveland Browns, gave $125,000 this year to Take Back the House and has donated $36,500 to each of the NRSC and the Republican National Committee (RNC), among other GOP recipients. The Haslams donated $5,600 last year to Democratic Rep. Richard Neal, chair of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, but otherwise have given almost exclusively to GOP groups and candidates.
Dallas real estate billionaire Harlan Crow donated $2,800 to Manchin on March 1 and $2,900 to Sinema on June 30. Crow’s hundreds of donations in the past three election cycles have overwhelmingly been to Republicans, including $2,900 this past July to Vance’s campaign and donations to more than a dozen Republicans in the third quarter. Crow has donated more than $1 million to the Senate Leadership Fund and Congressional Leadership Fund, super PACs dedicated to electing more Republicans to the Senate and House respectively.
Marc Lipschultz, co-founder and co-president of asset manager Blue Owl Capital, donated $2,000 to Manchin in June. Previously a partner and the head of energy investments at private equity firm KKR, Lipschultz’s contributions appear to otherwise have gone exclusively to Republicans, including a $90,000 donation to the Senate Leadership Fund in December 2020 and $50,000 to a Cornyn joint fundraising committee in July.
Houston real estate businessman Richard W. Weekley has donated to more than a dozen Republican senators this year, and donated $5,800 to Manchin in July, his only donation to a Democrat this year.
Anthony De Nicola, chair of private equity firm WCAS, is a Republican donor who gave to Steve Scalise’s reelection and J.D. Vance’s Senate campaign this year before contributing $2,900 to Manchin in June and the same amount to Sinema on Sept. 30. Shortly after the November election, De Nicola donated $150,000 to the Senate Leadership Fund. De Nicola, a prolific political donor, has given nearly exclusively to Republicans besides his donations to Sinema and Manchin.
Barry Volpert, co-founder and CEO of private equity firm Crestview Partners, gave $35,500 to the NRSC in January and contributed to several more Republican candidates before donating $2,900 to Manchin’s campaign on June 9. Volpert then gave $36,500 to Take Back the House in September. His over 100 contributions in the past three cycles have far and away gone to Republican politicians and party groups.
Courtney Pendergrass of Cleveland, Tennessee sometimes reports her occupation to the FEC as homemaker, and other times as being employed by business consultant Jones Management, whose companies include several payday loan operators. Pendergrass, a prolific political donor, contributed $2,500 to Sinema’s campaign in June, her first donation to a Democrat since 2015. Pendergrass has donated to dozens of Republicans including Marsha Blackburn, Kevin McCarthy, and Donald Trump.